Are you the kind of company that always has your fridge full of craft beer? Or are you more of a “questionable leftovers” type? Culture happens in an office setting whether you’re paying attention to it or not. That’s why leaders need to be aware of its existence — and to set their course deliberately.
Growth in business offers plenty of benefits — more efficient processes, more clearly defined roles. Yet, it’s critical that founders pay close attention to office culture as the company grows; research shows that over the long run, culture will dramatically impact your company’s bottom line.
One study showed that companies that highly value employees, customers, and owners grew their revenue 4 times as much as those that did not. With that in mind, here are tips on what small to medium businesses can do to keep up the energy at work as they grow.
Define your culture
It’s all about taking the time and creating the space, early on, to define who you are (or who you want to be) as an organization. Creating this clarity and aligning the team to that purpose will help shape and embed those ways of working into the fabric of the organization.
Repeat the company’s innovation story, why you exist as a business and what your company’s big, hairy, audacious goal is. Most people in companies cannot answer those questions, what’s shocking is most people don’t listen to their CEOs.
Everyone should know what the company’s core values are and how they play out. The list should be no more than three to four. Any more than that, and things just get muddled. If you might miss a commitment, you inform all stakeholders about the issue and how you’re addressing that issue.
Walk the walk
It’s not enough to talk about your office culture or your values. Employers must reflect company values in their own behavior and keep things as open as is reasonably possible.
Is your company a place where it’s okay to experiment and fail? Or do we spend most of our time trying to find who made the mistake and kill them? In companies where failures are punished, employees will spend an incredible amount of energy blaming others or hiding their own errors. That wastes time and discourages innovation.
Employers, admit your mistakes. Think about it: If the boss can admit when he/she trips up, it will diffuse the fear of failure. More importantly, it drives employees toward coming up with solutions.
Signal culture in physical space, use artifacts— office set-up, dress-code, decor — to reflect a company’s culture and values. A startup might begin very informally in someone’s garage, but then it loses that informality when it moves to an office. An open office plan and casual dress code can keep things feeling more flat.